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Home grown berries – Blackcurrants
Mike & Katrine Juleff
Black Currants -Ribes nigram
These have the same background as for gooseberries, losing favour after WW 2 after becoming popular as Vitamin C supplement.
Still used in a well known cordial. Popular in jams but very tart when fresh . Fruits on 1 year old wood which comes from the base of the plant, or as branches on older wood or as short fruiting spurs, depending on the variety. One year old wood is distinguished by straw-coloured bark which darkens to brown in later years. The plant has a pungent aroma reminiscent of tom cats. Flowers form on trusses each bearing from 5 – 15 flowers. Fruit ripen in December – January.
The black currant requires winter chilling to facilitate flower bud development and growth, and good yields can only be achieved in cold districts. Black currants will tolerate a range of soils provided they do not water log or dry out. An optimum pH of 6 -6.5 should be established before planting, as the shallow, fibrous root system does not lend itself to deep working for lime incorporation after plants are established.
Plants are established at approximately 1.0 m spacing within rows.
The principle of pruning black currants is to encourage new shoots to arise from the ground.
Old wood may gradually be removed from three-year-old and older plants by pruning a quarter of the old wood each year, plus removing broken, weak, diseased or misdirected branches each winter. Do not shorten new wood.
Pests and Diseases
The most serious pest of black currants is the Currant borer moth, Synanthedon tipuliformis. The larvae of the currant borer tunnel in plant stems, and their presence is indicated by prominent holes which lead to the pith of the stem. There are no satisfactory control methods presently available other than rigorous pruning of afflicted stems. Leaf Spot caused by the fungus Septoria ribis, is occasionally seen, and is easily recognised by the presence of brown spots with fawn centre. This condition can be sufficiently severe to cause premature leaf drop. Rake leaves and burn.
A poor cropping year can be attributed to grey mould fungus causing flowers or immature fruit to abort. There is no known treatment.
Currants – a note
My red and black currants were given to me by an old friend who had to give up her garden in a nearby town and so I have no idea of the varieties. Mike and I spent time in winter digging them up from around an old tank having no idea which was black or red. We planted them and when they fruited the next summer I then marked each bush only to discover that I only had to rub the stem. The blackcurrant smelt like rancid ribena!